Nursing Philosophy

Creating a personal nursing philosophy is akin to a journey of self-discovery. A nursing philosophy is a reflection of a personal and professional value system, beliefs, goals, ethics and one’s relationship to the world at large. A philosophy may explain one’s mission in life, or the impetus that led them to entering the nursing profession.

Creating a nursing philosophy helps nurses understand themselves better, recognize how thinking impacts actions, how goals are viewed, and how decisions are made throughout one’s career. A nursing philosophy allows individuals to apply knowledge to its fullest extent, which leads to further nursing knowledge, and for some nurses, the inspiration to create theories (Marchuk, 2014).

Nursing Metaparadigm

Creating a nursing philosophy requires an understanding of the nursing metaparadigm. Hardy (1978) introduced the use of paradigms to nursing to share a comprehensive description of the profession. The nursing metaparadigm is the foundation for nursing knowledge and philosophy (Fawcett, 1984) and its four concepts, listed below, represent the core elements of all nursing theories.

  • Person: recipient of nursing care
  • Nursing: delivery of care, practice (goals, roles, and functions)
  • Environment: surroundings of the patient (internal and external influences, physical and social)
  • Health: level of wellness, well-being (Fawcett, 2005)

The four metaparadigm concepts interact and interrelate with each other. When creating one’s nursing philosophy, individuals should consider how each of these concepts interrelate with the science and art of nursing, and how this connection applies to one’s personal value and belief system.

Carper’s (1978) seminal work on the Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing also assist nurses with creating a nursing philosophy. The four patterns of knowing are as follows:

  • Personal knowledge
  • Empirics: science of nursing
  • Ethics: morality
  • Aesthetics: art of nursing

Carper (1978) states the patterns of knowing represent the complexity and diversity within nursing practice. Incorporating the patterns of knowing into one’s philosophy symbolizes a personal perspective and significance for one’s practice. The patterns of knowing are not exclusive of each other, similar to the metaparadigm, instead, the elements of each pattern work together to explain nursing practice as a whole.

Reflecting on the four patterns of knowing brings about awareness of personal and professional knowledge, moral and ethical beliefs, science (such as research and evidence-based practice), and a creative imagination (aesthetics). Carper (1978) summarizes the meaning of nursing within the framework of the four patterns of knowing:

Nursing thus depends on the scientific knowledge of human behavior in health and in illness, the esthetic perception of significant human experiences, a personal understanding of the unique individuality of the self and the capacity to make choices within concrete situations involving particular moral judgments (p. 22).

Creating a Personal Philosophy

As nurses reflect on values, beliefs, patterns of knowing, and the metaparadigm, the following questions can be of assistance while creating a nursing philosophy:

  • What is professional nursing and what does it mean to you?
  • How is art represented in your practice?
  • How does science impact your practice?
  • What is health? What does it mean to you?
  • What is the relationship between society and health?
  • How does the Code of Ethics guide your practice?
  • How do you view the recipient of your care?
  • What is the role of nursing in society as a whole?
  • How do your values and beliefs align with the Standards of Professional Practice?
  • What is the meaning of life, both personally and professionally?
meaning of life

A nursing philosophy is dynamic, it will always be a work in progress. Nursing philosophies change throughout one’s career due to new knowledge, and personal and professional experiences. As a philosophy changes, career aspirations may also change. Reading one’s philosophy on a regular basis helps nurses recall a perspective from the past, which may inspire new desires and goals for the future.